Training Ground Update from the Project Manager

19th September, 2011
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Project Manager appointment
I took up the post of Project Manager, on a part-time consultancy basis, at the beginning of July. Since then, I’ve been working closely with the Trust Board, through the chairman, Alan Palmer, and the club – liaising primarily with Dougie Freedman and CEO Phil Alexander and keeping the owners up to speed. The club have provided me with desk space at Selhurst Park which means that the Training Ground project is a true partnership between fans through the Trust and the club. It means that we all have access to each other and are able to deliver a training ground that is fit for purpose for the club and strengthens the bond between fans and the club.

As well as having oversight of the project as a whole, I’m focussing on key tasks, including:

  • working in partnership with the club, particularly the coaching staff, executives and owners
  • working with the wider CPFC family – including the Foundation and Study Support Centre working up
  • proposals for the sites we are considering
  • liaising with landowners – primarily Croydon Council
  • liaising with local stakeholders, such as local residents, businesses and councillors
  • working with planners – both in Croydon and the Greater London Authority
  • appointment of specialists such as architects
  • establishing fundraising processes and then going out and raising funds

Site proposals
At the Special General Meeting held in February, three sites were identified:

  • Ashburton Playing Fields
  • The former NatWest Sports Club site on Turle Road, SW16
  • Purley Way Playing Fields

The Trust, Croydon Council and the Club all agreed that Ashburton Playing Fields was the preferred site, followed by SW16. With this in mind, we have been in negotiations with Croydon Council, who own Ashburton Playing Fields, exploring options around a long lease of about 125 years for about 30% of the site. We have also begun the pre-planning process for the site, and begun initial discussions with some local residents. Whilst this is an ideal site for the Club and local community, some residents who feel they would be adversely affected have voiced their concerns quite forcefully to Croydon Council. On the planning front, clearly there are obstacles, as we will be building on metropolitan open land. We are fortunate in having a former senior town planner – Ray Wright – on the Trust Board who has been working with me on the planning issues.

The Turle Road site is privately owned, and agents recently placed it on the market. At auction, it was sold for about £600,000. I am currently in discussions to see whether this site may still be viable for our needs.

Purley Way Playing Fields is still an option, if the other sites do not work out. There are some issues which make it a difficult site to work within, including exposure to the elements and drainage. In addition, like the Ashburton site, there are significant planning issues. However, it is still a site that could work as a training ground.

The main thing to stress as we move forward with the fundraising and design process is that, as with any major project of this nature, things are constantly changing and at present no site has been ruled out.

We are now in the final stages of tendering out for architectural services for the design stage of the project, having previously worked with TP Bennett on a feasibility study. We’ll be posting details of the tender process on the Trust website in the next couple of weeks.

Raising the money
Lots of people have been wondering why we haven’t begun asking for money from our members. The main reason for this is that, as an Industrial and Provident Society, we have strict rules to adhere to on the establishment of a fund raising scheme. We’re currently working on the assumption that it will be a Loan Stock (or Loan Note) instrument, and the wording is being worked up with our specialist lawyers.

The idea is that we will issue loan stock with a minimum value of £500. We will also make it easy for people to build up to that value in instalments through standing orders, and also drawing up legal agreements for groups of individuals to pool their resources to acquire stock. People who invest will receive a modest return after about 3 years – which will be made up of the rent charged to the club. The scheme will have rules in relation to cashing in loan stock and trading stock – with limits to the number of stocks that can be cashed in each year. There will also need to be rules relating to protecting the interests of loan stock holders.

Whilst we are progressing with the loan stock model, and intend to have the scheme signed off by our lawyers in the next few weeks, we’ve also been keeping an eye on developments elsewhere, notably with FC United of Manchester, who have had a community share scheme approved by HMRC which provides tax breaks for investors. If we qualify for this, we will switch to community shares for some investors, and loan stock for others. FC United of Manchester is a fan-owned football club born out of frustration from some ex-Manchester Utd fans who were sick of the way their club was being run / financed. About 2000 FCUM fans watch their team play on a regular basis. They have recently raised over £1.5 million from community shares being bought by their members, to build a new stadium.

Either way, I’ll be signing up members to the scheme very soon, particularly in relation to regular payments to build up to the magic £500 figure (though you are very welcome to invest more if you wish).

Football in the community
One of the reasons that the Trust is better able to acquire land for the training ground is that it is a not-for-profit organisation with a clear community benefit remit. I’ve had initial discussions with the Crystal Palace FC Foundation to see how the excellent community work they do can be incorporated in a new training ground. This includes carrying out some community development work with local communities within the ground when the club is not using the facility. This partnership will further strengthen ties between the trust, club and local communities.

Any questions …
The Trust’s new website has a dedicated section on the training ground. If you have any questions, the best thing to do is send me a message via the site when it goes live in the next few days.

I’ll provide regular updates in the months ahead – but if I’m a bit quiet for a while, it’s probably because I’m involved in some negotiating or planning matters.

I’ll also be doing some Q&As on the message boards (Holmesdale On-Line and the BBS) towards the end of September / early October.

Also, if you see me out and about – come and say hello! I’m around Selhurst Park a fair bit during the week and also at matches (home and away).

Raj Chandarana

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